A new year, a new school? Tips & resources for open enrollment
Are you participating in the open enrollment dance this year? You know, that frantic round of school tours, phone calls, coffee chats with other parents, stealth visits to schools to observe kids on the playground…
If you are considering sending your child to a school other than the one in your neighborhood, then yes, you may be doing some or all of these things.
Believe it or not, there are ways to prepare yourself for making the best school choice for your child. Long gone are the days when your child was required to attend your neighborhood school (although it’s great when the neighborhood school is the right fit, let me tell you).
EdNews Parent expert Kanesha Baynard offers up five essential tips:
Write your dream school end game
Take some time, as a family, to identify the top factors of a school that would help your child thrive during the next academic year. Capture the feel, look and events of an ideal school day. Describe interactions with teachers, classmates and school leaders. List the activities and classes you would like your child to have access to. Write down parent engagement opportunities that would support your interactions within the school. Makes sure you list specific details to add clarity to the proper school fit for your child. This will help you focus on selecting the best school for your child – instead of selecting the school with the “best reputation.”
Identify any fears
When parents are making school choice decisions, they often do not realize the role fear may be playing in their decision-making. If there are fears or apprehensions that are affecting how you approach the school selection process for your child, call it out. Identify the drivers of this fear (e.g. media, school rumors, neighbors, other competitive parents, family members, etc.). List any thoughts or feelings that are coming up due to this fear. Analyze actions that are being driven by the fear. By addressing this head on, you will put less pressure on yourself to select the absolutely perfect school for your child.
Give yourself some credit
As your child’s first teachers, there are many tools, skills, and knowledge you have provided. Assess your “home learning environment” and list what’s working well and contributing to your child’s academic success. Then list the ways you would like the school community to enhance and support what you are already doing. This will help you form thoughtful questions to ask during the open enrollment process.
Create your own team
If you have friends and family members who are supportive, know the needs of your child and are entering the open-enrollment process too – form a team. Within your team, you can divide and conquer the school research and help each other make sense of what you are learning. You can also share the responsibility of attending the various open-enrollment events so you are not stretched too thin trying to be everywhere. If you have supportive people to brainstorm with, you will create a safe space to tackle fears and move positively ahead.
Remember you have a choice
Even though the open-enrollment process is made available to all families, you can opt out. You can choose to send your child to your neighborhood school without participating in the open-enrollment cycle. Some parents may feel guilty and tell themselves they are not doing enough if they choose to select a school based on what is closest to their home. Remember, you get to decide how you want to best support your child’s academic experience. Be sure to remind yourself of this.
Colorado School Grades, the website that rates school districts on an A-F letter grade scale, has just been updated with 2012 data about the academic performance of schools across the state. The site uses data gathered by the Colorado Department of Education’s annual accountability process but classifies schools in a different way.
Colorado Succeeds is a business-based education reform group that sponsors the site along with other organizations. You can check the new ratings here. Read this EdNews Colorado story about the state’s 2012 ratings, and use this searchable database to find individual school ratings.
Also, the Colorado Department of Education provides an open-enrollment resource page.
Read Kanesha’s complete post. And enjoy the journey. Share your own sanity-preserving open enrollment tips.
EdNews Parent editor Julie Poppen is a former daily newspaper journalist who has covered a multitude of school issues in Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver. She is also the mother of a fifth grader in Boulder Valley. Sign up for the EdNews Parent newsletter by clicking here.